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In The Studio: Slow Down Clown

Mumbai alt rock band talks about their full-length debut album ‘Forget The Night’

Megha Mahindru Oct 30, 2012

Slow Down Clown. Photo: Siddharth Dugha

Singer-songwriter Vitek Goyel, better known as Tek, is convinced that his latest album is different from his previous work. At Aslam Khan’s Recording Studio in Four Bungalows, Tek tells us that a set of tablas and a pair of ghunghuroos made it into their latest recording. The pairing seems odd if you go by the sound that the Mumbai alt-rockers are known for.

When they performed at Live From The Console in Mumbai earlier this year, a member of the audience shouted out, “These guys are the Indian Counting Crows.” Tek shrugs off the comparison to the American alt rock band. “I don’t know why it happens,” he says, “I don’t take it seriously at all”¦ It’s funny. I used to be a huge fan of Counting Crows and I’ve seen them live a couple of times, but it was never a conscious effort to sound like them. I don’t think we sound like them either. But Indian Counting Crows is better than being called the Indian Creed I guess.”

Tek previously released an EP, Say Nothing, in October 2010 as a solo artist. This was also the first time that he performed with a backing band on stage, leading many reviewers to compare his mellow, somber bordering-on-mournful vocals to that of Counting Crows’ vocalist Adam Duritz. Until date, a mandatory request to play a Counting Crows track finds mention at most of their gigs. Tek originally formed Slow Down Clown with his college mate Nick Sullivan in the US in 2001. After he returned to India, Tek revived the project, first as a one-man band in 2007 and later formed a band in 2010 with Anurag Shanker (guitars), Wilson Kenneth (bass) and Arfaaz Kagalwala (drums), who currently make up the four-piece alt rock band. “The best thing is that more stuff gets done since it’s not just me procrastinating. With more people coming in, the band has taken a different direction that I wouldn’t have taken alone,” says Tek.

The band is now ready with their debut album, Forget The Night, which they began recording in August. In the months that followed, the frontman got engaged and the rest of the bandmembers got going with their side projects. While Kagalwala and Shanker were busy composing background for independents films like Sulemani Keeda [comedy] and Charlie Ke Chakkar Mein [thriller], Kenneth helped produce alt-rock band Spook’s debut album, Lyrical Cynic.

After an unconventional launch at Shanker’s house in Kalina, in suburban Mumbai tomorrow, the band will make the album available for free downloads. So has Tek’s gloomy sound now become any peppier with the band of four? “You mean am I getting help?” asks Tek jokingly, “The songs are still the same, but they are a bit more upbeat. A lot of songs were written in the same period as the EP, when I was feeling a little low and well, introspective. They are essentially the same batch of angst-ridden songs that we have rearranged and reworked.”
 
However, unlike the EP which primarily featured Tek with a backing band, this album is a joint effort by the quartet. Shanker, one of the band’s chattiest members adds, “Basically what we have done is take his songs from a bedroom and change them into songs that can be played in an arena.” The 43-minute album features nine tracks, most of which have been performed by the band since their earliest gigs two years ago. A regular on their playlist, “Bandra Girls,” now also includes a tabla section. “It has a busking vibe now where we are singing, shouting and just having a great time,” says Kagalwala, who also played the darbuka, a traditional Middle Eastern hand drum and tambourine on another drone-y track titled “The Disappearing Boy”.

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While most of the songs were written in 2007, some like “Pankaj Ki Ma” that has now been rechristened “Suicide City” were written on the day of the recording. “We were jamming one day and it sounded like such a punk song. We didn’t have the lyrics ready, so we called it ”˜Punk-ass song,’ which later somehow became ”˜Pankaj’,” says Kagalwala about the song’s etymology. Unlike Slow Down Clown’s repetitive lyrics and chorus, this one comes across as somewhat linear. “It’s pretty cool and the way Tek sings it, it’s like he’s trying to go to the loo and he can’t make it. I think it’s about his drive from South Mumbai to here [Andheri], which basically makes him want to kill himself. I think he probably wrote it on the way,” Shanker adds.

“Shoreline,” the longest track on the album, clocks in at over seven minutes and swings from acoustic folk to funk to jazz to punk and is also one of the standout tracks. “The more we played as a band, the more our sound evolved. It [the making of the album] was a lot easier actually since the bare bones of the songs were there, but we used them as building blocks and just tried new stuff,” says Tek, adding that “Shoreline” started as a simple, guitar plucking track when he first wrote it.

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Sonically, Forget The Night sees the band return to their lo-fi, indie, acoustic appeal, and the songs too are still about “breakups and chicks and adolescent stuff.” But the album with its drums and guitars is harder when compared to the EP. Most tracks, such as their recently released single, “Stupid Sea” sound different from their video versions ”“ they’re slower and cleaner. “I wanted to take them out of that raw environment and give them a good production and a very clean, studio sound, which a lot of people shy away from,” says Tek.

This week, Slow Down Clown will play at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune. About their 45-minute set, Kagalwala adds, “We’ll try and play all the songs from our new album.”

Slow Down Clown perform at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune at the Fully Fantastic Stage on November 3rd during the 7.10pm-7.50pm slot. Get more details on the festival here.

Track list for Forget The Night:

Forget the Night album cover

Shoreline

In A Moment

Keep You

You Lie

Suicide City

Stupid Sea

The Disappearing Boy

Perfect

Bandra Girls

Download the album here.

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